Wednesday, July 15, 2009

There They Go Again

One of the myths of the religious right is that the American Civil Liberties Union isn't just a liberal group, but is actively anti-Christian. That's because, of course, anytime you try and keep the Christians from trying to force themselves on the public, that's "anti-Christian," as opposed to, say, sound First Amendment application.

Anywho, as I said, it's a myth, as another recent case proves (via Ed and Reason, where Jacob Sullum wins the prize for best headline of the day):

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Virginia today demanded that officials at the Rappahannock Regional Jail immediately end their illegal practice of censoring religious material sent to detainees.

In a letter sent today to the jail's superintendent, Joseph Riggs, Jr., the ACLU asks for jail officials to guarantee in writing that the jail will no longer censor biblical passages from letters written to detainees and to revise the jail's written inmate mail policy to state that letters will not be censored simply because they contain religious material.
The policy leads to some really silly results:
The letter was prompted by a complaint brought to the ACLU by Anna Williams, a devout Christian whose son was detained at Rappahannock beginning in June of 2008 until his transfer earlier this year. Williams wanted to send her son religious material, including passages from the Bible, to support him spiritually during his confinement. But rather than deliver Williams' letters to her son in full, jail officials removed any and all religious material, destroying the religious messages Williams sought to convey to her son. For example, after jail officials excised biblical passages, a three-page letter sent by Williams to her son was reduced to nothing more than the salutation, the first paragraph of the letter and the closing, 'Love, Mom.'
Yes, prisoners lose some rights when they're locked away in prison, but not all of them. A double whammy First Amendment claim - free speech and free exercise of religion - seriously narrows the otherwise broad authority that the jail might have otherwise.

For more on the ACLU standing up for the rights of Christians, see here.

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